LIS Has Talent – but where is it? Connect-Ed Networking Breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien

Connect_ed_LOGOHow do LIS employers develop talent? How do they find talent in the first place? With ever-changing business strategies, how do we get to grips with the skills that are needed to work with and best support these strategies? Are we facing a LIS skills shortage?

This subject formed the basis of a lively discussion at our first networking breakfast of 2015. A  new look for our breakfast events under the joint Sue Hill Recruitment / TFPL banner of Connect-Ed, a new venue in the form of Le Pain Quotidien, and a new group of senior Information Professionals all fuelled a highly stimulating debate.

In some sectors people are accustomed to change and ensuring their skills remain relevant. In others, there is not such an impetus to maintain relevance and currency, and a few individuals appear happy to stay in the role of more traditional librarians –  people have become too comfortable and reactive in their roles.

There is a need for everyone at every level of their career to continually upskill.  Moreover it is important to find ways to engage with stakeholders e.g. getting the right information to the right people at the right time. To  do this one needs to be forward-looking and horizon-scanning.

We discussed what is it that is unique to Information Professionals and their professional training. The common ground is often subject/resource expertise and how to find the right information – being able to think around how to locate information rather than simply spending fruitless hours on Google.

Marketing underpins everything: networking and engaging with users and stakeholders and continually raising awareness. There was some debate over how much marketing should be ‘taught’ rather than acquired on the job. Information Professionals should certainly be trying to break down silos. Getting in with the business development and strategy teams is a good move – get them on your side. Scoping is a hugely important skill in a research role, to ensure you give clients what they need, not just what they think they want.

One identified specific challenges with Millennials in that they may seem over-confident, don’t like to be challenged, don’t understand their own limitations, and may be reluctant to accept responsibility for their mistakes. Challenges with longer-serving team members may include more resistance to being developed on the job. Are problems with new talent in the workplace down to the education system, where learning and deliverables are broken down into bitesized chunks and thus difficult to translate into real life work needs?

We commented on the ongoing shortage of information graduates coming through to the workplace. Why is this?  We’re still feeling the effects of the recession, courses have been suspended at a number of universities, and there have not been as many pre-library placements available. Are pre-library placements relevant still?  Some felt yes and were surprised they are not always an essential requirement before starting a Masters course. There was further discussion about the benefits of working before doing the Masters – main advantages being to give professional experience, build confidence, and to place theoretical learning into context.  #UKlibchat is running quite a lot of topics around this theme.

Do employers still need information graduates? Is there a move to graduates with qualifications in business, economics or marketing? The answer was an approximate yes for some roles, but no for others where information management and retrieval expertise is key.

Are employers realistic to expect fully rounded business professionals at graduate level with a broad skillset, great communication skills, the right personality, negotiation skills, good business writing skills, and able to produced structured writing? Personality is key, but you can train the right person up into the right technical skills. The most important  attributes are to show adaptability, learn who your customers are and know your organisation.


– Donald Lickley